Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Today on Palm Sunday, we remember previous years when we may have received a new ‘palm cross’ and hear how the crowds cried “Hosanna!” (‘save us’), which later became “Crucify Him!”
What do you do if you have a ‘palm cross’ each year? Asking around, most folk keep them somewhere visible at home. As the days/weeks go by, what thoughts go through your mind when you glimpse it?
Today’s verse echoes back to Luke 9:23, when Jesus first sent out His disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
What does it mean to “carry the cross”? Is it a personal cross? An illness? Living with a tragedy? Our responsibilities? Is it a cross for humanity? Poverty? Inequality? Environment? Sharing the Gospel?
Years ago, I went to see a Passion Play at local church with a full-sized wooden cross. The actor playing Jesus carried the crossbeam: it weighed 45kg (100lbs), equivalent to two full suitcases on one’s back! Imagine carrying that a great distance after being beaten and whipped!
In that context, ‘denying oneself’ and ‘carrying one’s cross’ does not sound appealing!
Looking at Koeder’s first version, five crosses are visible: Jesus, the two criminals at either side, and two in grey in the background. Do the other two represent us?
The artist, a Roman Catholic priest, born in 1925, lived his formative years in the Third Reich. In the second version, Koeder substituted the criminals for symbols of inhumanity: a black man, symbol of slavery and apartheid; and Sister Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, killed in Auschwitz.
The picture’s title is “With Us”: that is the core message of the Incarnation. Whoever we are and whatever we ‘carry’, Jesus is in it with us.
Let us pray… Because you, God, love the world, because in Christ you walked it, we dare to pray: God, send Your Spirit; renew the life of the earth. Amen. (Source: Iona, “A Wee Worship Book”)
Walt Johnson, Ordinand at Northern College and Member at Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC (Chorlton, Manchester)